Iranian Christian converts face appeal hearing against harsh prison sentences

Several Christian converts from Iran recently had an appeal hearing in Tehran against the harsh 10-year prison sentences they received for their involvement in establishing house churches and promoting "Zionist Christianity."

(REUTERS / Raheb Homavandi / Tima)Iranian Christians stand in line at a church to cast their votes during elections for the parliament and Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, in Tehran February 26, 2016.

Aside from receiving the long jail terms, Yousef Nadarkhani and Mohammadreza Omidi were sentenced to two years in exile as well to two separate places far from their families in Rasht. In a separate court case, Omidi, Saheb Fadaie, and Yasser Mossayebzadeh were sentenced to 80 lashes each for drinking alcoholic beverage during a communion on May 13, 2016, the Middle East Concern detailed.

The judge hearing the case of the four Iranian Christians - Nadarkhani, Omidi, Fadaie and Mossayebzadeh - has been charged with miscarrying justice. The same judge has been included in a list of officials to be financially sanctioned by the U.K.

Meanwhile, Christian Solidarity Worldwide learned last month that the children of parents who were members of the Church of Iran in Rasht and Shiraz have been forced to learn Shi'a Islam or else they would have to leave their school.

The Iranian constitution allows minority Christians to study their own religious instruction material as approved by the Ministry of Education.  They have also presented a letter which exempted them from studying Shi'a Islam, but authorities have recently rejected this document.

According to Iranian authorities, the Church of Iran is an illegal organization, so children have to either study Islam or to go home. Insiders have told CSW that the latest move aims to push them to convert to the Muslim faith.

In light of the situation, CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas expressed concern over the possible interruption to the education of the second generation Christian children just because their parents would not agree to let them study Islam. He insisted that education is a basic right which the Iranian Constitution guarantees for all its citizens, and children should not be used to punish their parents for exercising their right to practice their choice of religion.